Especially in the AFC North. The Ravens' game Sunday against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers is a reminder of the pass-rush terrors that await in the division. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt is a two-time Pro Bowl selection whom the Steelers are almost certain to sign to a long-term deal. Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who leads the NFL with nine sacks, signed an extension through the 2026 season in July.
When the Ravens offensive line has struggled in recent seasons, it's taken the offense with it. In Stanley, they have a cornerstone piece who said in May that, even during the offseason, he can't tolerate inactivity. There was no time for "rest time," advice he learned from former All-Pro center Olin Kreutz.
"It's important to him," Harbaugh said. "He wants to be the best. He cares about it. We've had many conversations about that ... (and) things that you have to do to become as good as he's become. But I think, more than anything, he's really a smart guy. He's a smart guy. He understands the value of hard work, of stacking technique. He really is a technician at what he does. He talks about that all the time. And really, at that position, probably, along with talent, that's the most important thing. So he's pretty special that way."
"I couldn't be prouder of him," center Matt Skura said. "He's worked so hard since getting here, both being in the same (draft) class. It's awesome to see how much he's grown, and just reaping the benefits of that has really been awesome."
Stanley's extension could have significant team-building implications. Had the Ravens been unable to reach a long-term deal with Stanley by mid-March, they likely would have designated him with the franchise tag.
Now, they have that flexibility with other pending free agents, including new arrival Yannick Ngakoue and fellow pass rusher Matthew Judon. Because Ngakoue signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings after the Jacksonville Jaguars had tagged him this offseason, the cost to tag him again would be significantly less than it would be to re-tag Judon, who's earning $16.8 million this season.
More significant, though, is DeCosta's continued investment in homegrown stars. The Ravens have moved quickly in recent years to lock up underappreciated starters such as safety Chuck Clark and tight end Nick Boyle. They've also opened their wallet to retain Pro Bowl players like Stanley, Humphrey, kicker Justin Tucker and fullback Patrick Ricard. Megadeals for stars like Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews could be on the horizon.
Stanley said it mattered that the Ravens have tried to build a culture "from within."
"We all know we're a family here, and I think all of the guys are on the same page of what we're trying to build here in Baltimore, and that's long-term success," he said. "We have a lot of young players that are going to try to get paid in these next couple of years, and I think everyone wants everyone to get theirs and to really just be happy with the commitment that they're getting from the team that they're signing with. We're going to try to keep as many key pieces here as we can."
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